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Cuba Talks: Capitalism Vs. Communism, Rights Vs. Repression

Roberto Koltun
El Nuevo Herald

This past weekend, the top U.S. negotiator in the talks to normalize relations with communist Cuba stopped in Miami on her way back from Havana.

She briefed journalists from the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and WLRN about the historic negotiations – but she seemed more impressed by what she saw at lunch.

Roberta Jacobson is the assistant U.S. secretary of state for the western hemisphere. Last week in Havana, she and her delegation kicked off talks with Cuban officials to restore diplomatic ties, which were severed 54 years ago. 

At the Miami Herald Saturday, Jacobson called the Havana session productive. But she described Cuba's new private entrepreneurs – some of whom she lunched with there on Friday – as key to the U.S.’ new policy.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that they all see themselves as playing a critical role in demonstrating a different way of economic prosperity than a state-centered model,” Jacobson said. "We really do ourselves and the Cuban people a disservice if we underestimate the importance of that."

Jacobson also met with Cuban dissidents. She said Cuban officials last week sidestepped the issue of Cuba’s human rights record. But they have agreed to separate human rights talks later.

“Our intention was to make sure they understood what our position was," she said. "That’s the area of the most profound disagreement.”

The next round of talks may take place next month in Washington.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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